The Berkeley County area drug epidemic is no longer someone else’s problem. Drug addiction can touch all people no matter their age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, education or location. To address this issue, Berkeley County’s drug prevention efforts should focus on three general principles: prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
Focusing on area youth is at the center of our prevention efforts with outreach programs at community centers and after-school programs. Prevention must also mean preventing individuals who already suffer from addiction from causing irreparable harm to themselves or others.
Harm reduction programs are a cost-effective way to prevent the spread of disease and give addicts a portal toward treatment and recovery.
Treatment resources across the state are severely limited and expanding the number of treatment beds is vital for our future. We must also remember that recovery does not end after an addict’s stay at a treatment center. Transitional housing and career opportunities are needed to let them become productive members of society.
Strengthening laws on drug dealers while giving discretion to judges on addicts needs to be a focus of the West Virginia Legislature. Local law enforcement expanding diversion programs and the judicial system expanding the role of drug courts are necessary steps to ease prison overcrowding. There must also be a path for individuals who have acquired a criminal record, due to their addiction, to start anew.